Women find a man more attractive if he is sitting in an expensive car than if he is sitting in a modestly priced car, according to a study reported in the British Journal of Psychology by Dunn, M., & Searle, R.
The finding confirms common wisdom and is not particularly surprising. Every dating man and every dating woman knows men with money are more desirable. More interesting are the questions the researchers did not study or attempt to answer.
Do males pay for the 'added' benefit associated with expensive cars through higher car prices? Do the carmakers reap higher profit margins as a result? What percentage of an expensive car's price is due to the attractiveness factor?
If the 'attractiveness' value of a 2 - 3 year old prestige car in good condition remains comparable to a new car, the residual (trade-in) value of a prestige car, as a percent of original value, will be higher than for a non-prestige auto. Both cars' physical value will depreciate, but the 'attractiveness' value should remain and lower the percentage depreciation loss of an expensive car. We should expect cars with 'attractiveness' value to retain more of their original value after a few years than cars without an attractiveness factor.
The higher residual values of expensive cars lead to lower leasing costs versus buying, which increases the number of potential male owners in lower income groups. More male owners will help maintain higher profit margins and higher residual values.
For women, there is a negative effect. More leasing will remove the accuracy of the wealth-filtering signal of expensive cars by allowing less wealthy men to drive the expensive cars.
Consistent with the study, common wisdom is that expensive cars maintain their trade-in value better than less expensive cars.
Since leasing does not require as much income or wealth as buying and muddies the signal sent to women about an owner's richness, women should be less impressed by expensive cars that are widely leased versus purchased. I wish the researchers had expanded their study to look at different makes of expensive cars to see if different expensive cars had different attractiveness effects to women.
I would expect that women would rank the attractiveness of males with prestige cars that have a higher proportion of leasing lower than the attractiveness of men with prestige cars that have a lower proportion of leasing.
Additionally, it would be interesting research to see what if any corrective actions women take to prevent and discover male deceit about wealth signals.
It is a marketplace, requiring price discovery, with asymmetric information about wealth. A more comprehensive study could show how dating women improve their information and accuracy of estimates of a man's wealth.